Dramatic increase in extreme heat forecast for Mackay

Dramatic increases in extreme heat days, combined with high humidity present an increasing threat to the health and wellbeing of Mackay residents.

The Australia Institute’s HeatWatch initiative, which uses CSIRO–BoM modelling, shows that the number of extreme heat days (over 35C) experienced in Mackay could increase up to seventy times current levels and that virtually all summer nights could remain above 25 degrees by 2090.

“Increasing temperatures combined with high humidity are likely to push many days each year to dangerous levels of heat stress,” says Mark Ogge, Principal Adviser at The Australia Institute.

“This will have serious implications for the health and safety the large proportion of the Mackay workforce exposed to the impacts of increasing extreme heat. One in four workers in the Mackay region are employed in the mining, construction and agriculture industries which often require heavy outdoor work.

“Humidity of 80% is common in Mackay. When that is combined with 35 degree temperatures, it is considered extremely dangerous to people’s health and can be lethal. In the past there have been very few days over 35 degrees, but if we don’t reduce emissions, that will change.

“There is an urgent need for adaptation measures to cope with increasing extreme heat in Mackay, and across Australia.

“Fortunately this is not inevitable. CSIRO projections show that if we take action and reduce emissions we can prevent virtually all of these rises.

“This will require phasing out coal mining over time. Fortunately Mackay already has a modern diverse economy, and this will help the region get off the boom/bust treadmill, allowing other industries to expand and prosper.”

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